Thursday, January 12, 2012

20. ZOMBIE (ZOMBI 2, 1979)

I've always been lukewarm about Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE, which -- in that wily way once exclusive to Italians -- was produced under a title misleadingly positioning it as a sequel to ZOMBI, Dario Argento's Italian recut of George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. It's more closely allied to old-fashioned voodoo pictures like I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (note the hypnotic voodoo drums) and THE ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (the Caribbean island here is called Matoul), and was actually shot in four different countries, something no Romero film can boast to this day; there are also specific shots in the Dominican Republic scenes that nearly serve as storyboards for the opening shots in Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD. I'll be writing more elsewhere about this title at greater length, but watching it again on this Blu-ray disc, I never enjoyed it nore and never had a better understanding of how, in spite of its shortcomings, it revitalized Italian film production at the point of its most severe crisis. I don't think all of the famous set pieces work as well as some people think, but they are fun and audacious and occasionally visionary; DP Sergio Salvati succeeds in capturing any number of classic horror images.

The supplements showed me that Fulci's leap of imagination here was rooted in a lucky misunderstanding: it was his intention to overstate the graphic horror to make it ludicrous and funny, but American audiences took it very seriously, seeing that it carried an uncommon X rating, raising the bar in regard to what was permissible with violence onscreen. Some of the shots in the climactic conflagration, with the zombies spinning around in response to headblows, show that Fulci was actually emulating Hong Kong martial arts cinema in his hyperbolic glee. In its own way, ZOMBIE ushered in a new era of madness to the fantastic cinema, much as Roger Corman's SHARKTOPUS films and its imitators are doing now.

Viewed on Blue Underground's two-disc Blu-ray set.

1 comment:

  1. I've always found this one to be good trashy fun. Glad you were able to enjoy it more on your most recent viewing. I've never found Fulci to be anywhere close to a great filmmaker, but his best films (IMO this, 'City of the Living Dead', and 'The Beyond') have an undeniable pulpy energy and complete lack of pretense that I love.